"Every foreigner, whether living in EU countries or not, can buy land." This was announced to BTV by Minister of Agriculture and Food Rumen Porozhanov in connection with amendments to the Law on the ownership and use of agricultural lands, which abolished Restrictions on the sale of agricultural land for foreigners in Bulgaria The bill comes because of a criminal procedure of the European Commission, it has to be passed by the Parliament until September.
It has already been published for discussion. It offers companies and citizens from the EU to be able to acquire unspoiled fields, meadows and gardens in our country. The change of regime has to be made with an adjustment in the Ownership and Use of Agricultural Land Act. The deadline for submitting opinions and proposals on the project is until August 13.
There is a serious limitation now - who wants to take a farm, must have stayed in Bulgaria for at least 5 years. The condition of "serenity" was introduced into law in 2014, when the moratorium on acquiring land by foreigners expired. Already at the end of 2013, the EC warned that if Bulgaria does not lift the ban on EU bidders as provided for in its EU membership treaty, it will ask for a criminal procedure.
Two years later, in 2016, the European Commission gave an ultimatum to our country to stop treating EU citizens differently by dividing them to locals and foreigners and removing the requirement of self-reliance, otherwise it goes to court. The aim of the project, now launched by Minister Rumen Porozhanov, is to get Bulgaria out of the criminal procedure, it is clear from the motives.
If Brussels brings a case to the EU Court, Bulgaria may be ordered to pay a one-off sanction of 839,000 euros, and separately it will accrue 660 euros of fines for each day the violation continues, which makes € 241,000 per Year. An important "detail" is that if fines are reached they will not be paid by the budget but will be "offset" by the EU funds provided for Bulgarian farmers.
Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia, which have introduced similar restrictions on land purchase by companies and citizens from other EU countries, are also threatened with surrender and fines. According to the European Commission, all of these countries are overpowering one of the EU's basic principles - the free movement of capital.
Porozhanov, however, explained that a team of lawyers would still consider other restrictions that do not contradict the EU legislation.
"The requirement for foreign citizens to prove at least 5 years of settling in Bulgaria before they can buy agricultural land in Bulgaria should be dropped because of the risk of heavy euro-subsidies, but the government will seek other ways to restrict this practice," Porozhanov said.
"We in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food can not be held responsible for such a penalty of over 1 million euros, which will be calculated", pointed out Mr. Porozhanov and stressed that the EU regulations require the law to apply to non-Community citizens - eg from Turkey Or Russia.
"There will be a working group in the Council of Ministers to see if other types of restrictions can be made," he said, adding that there are other countries that are threatened with a sanction because of the impossibility for foreigners to own agricultural land as one of They are Poland.
Porozhanov preferred not to comment on whether the moratorium has so far been circumvented, noting that liberalization of the regime could bring more investment.